Happily Ever After
With thanks as always to my beta reads, Kokopelli, Gardengirl, Ishtar and Greywizard.
Harry walked from the Quibbler building into the one next to it. Inside Gringotts, there was a large queue formed in front of the cashiers. Before he could join the queue, one of the guards came up to him.
“Straight through, Mr Potter,” he said, leading Harry past the queue.
“How come he’s getting through?” one of the wizards protested.
Two guards appeared. “Because he is friend of the goblins,” the one on the left sneered. “When you perform a service to Gringotts, and when you bother to make friends with goblins, maybe then you will be allowed through, too.” The goblin reached up and grabbed the wizard by the robes, pulling him down so that they were nose to nose. “Until then,” the guard growled, “I would suggest shutting your blunt-toothed mouth and keeping your loud opinions to yourself.” He looked around as he released the pale wizard. “Does anyone else have any comments?”
There was a complete silence.
The goblin accompanying Harry laughed softly and opened the gate that allowed him behind the counters.
“Thanks,” Harry said. He walked through to find Grapplegus waiting for him. “Morning.”
“Good morning, Harry,” Grapplegus said cheerfully. Before he could say any more, there was a flurry up ahead.
“Mr Potter, Mr Potter,” three goblins cried as they converged from three different directions.
“You are looking for an account manager,” the first said, almost breathless. “I’d like to tender my services for that position.”
The second goblin pushed the first hard. “As would I, Mr Potter.”
“Stop!” Harry commanded. “Grapplegus, knowing what you do about my plans, is there anyone you would suggest to act as my account manager?”
“Yes,” Grapplegus said promptly. “Me.”
The faces of the three goblins fell.
“However,” Grapplegus continued, “I have a business to turn around. In my stead, these three are reasonable.” He paused. “They wouldn’t have volunteered otherwise,” he finished in a low voice.
Harry looked at three goblins in front of him. “You do know that I am after high risk, high return options?”
The third one blinked and then sighed. “I am sorry,” he said, “but I should withdraw. I’m a little too old and set in my ways. My younger colleagues would perhaps be better.”
“I like a man who knows his limitations,” Harry said. “Right, you two, I want both of you to go and write a proposal for how you would help me. I’ll pick the best one. You have seven days.” He paused. “And next time, when I have Gabrielle with me, I would suggest approaching with more decorum, or you will find that she will be most displeased with the lack of respect shown, and will act accordingly.”
The two goblins paled and nodded.
“Get to it then,” Harry said. They looked at each other, baring their teeth in matching snarls, before rushing away.
“The impudence of youth,” Grapplegus said in amusement.
Harry looked at the slightly-lost looking third goblin. “From you,” he said, “I want a much more restrained proposal for how to manage the Black fortune. We will be using it to finance a hotel business, and using the profits for some charitable work. Percy Weasley will be overseeing it, but he will need expert advice.”
The goblin stood up straighter and almost saluted. “It would be an honour,” he said. “Seven days?”
“I will be ready,” he agreed. He nodded at them both, and turned and marched away.
Harry turned back to Grapplegus and grinned. “Those two aren’t very good for business.”
“Oh?” Grapplegus asked. “They both want the job.”
“Of course,” Harry agreed. “And they’ll both do their best to outdo each other. If either of them had asked, I could have told them that your recommendation is good enough for me, and I would hire them both. This way, I get two different plans to follow for free.”
Grapplegus stared at him for a long moment, and then started to laugh, hard. “Harry,” he said seriously, “are you sure you’re not part goblin?”
Harry smiled. “Not as far as I know.” He looked up, as a voice he recognised requested to speak to the manager.
“Isn’t that Narcissa Malfoy?” he asked.
“Pure-bloods,” Grapplegus said with a sigh. “Not the finest examples of your species, even if they do have money.” He paused and then smiled faintly. “Or used to.”
Grapplegus grinned. “I would never pass on confidential information.”
“Let her through,” Harry suggested. “Let’s go into your office.”
The goblin nodded and waved his hand. A guard escorted Narcissa behind the counter and over to them.
“Took your time,” Narcissa sneered.
“Did you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or are you always this unpleasant?” Harry asked politely. “Because if it’s the latter, I can have you thrown out as easily as I requested you be allowed back here.”
Narcissa opened her mouth, but then closed it. “My apologies,” she said to Grapplegus. “I have had an extremely bad morning and I took it out on you.”
Grapplegus looked surprised, and then nodded. “This way, Lady Malfoy,” he said politely.
Narcissa blinked, and followed him. Harry trailed along after them, noticing the smiles on the faces of some of the goblins. He winked at them, and entered the office. He dropped on to one of the couches.
“Sit up straight,” Narcissa barked, and then blushed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m used to dealing with my idiot of a son.”
Harry smiled faintly. “I’ve just spent an hour at the Quibbler. I’m entitled to slouch a little. So, what brings you to Gringotts this bright morning?”
Narcissa sighed and looked at Grapplegus.
“I tend to take Harry’s advice on wizard related things,” he said.
“I need time,” Narcissa said abruptly. “To raise money for our loan repayment.”
“Why don’t you step back a bit,” Harry advised, “and tell us what happened to the Malfoy fortune.”
Narcissa nodded and started to pace. “My husband was a lot of things, but I loved him all the same, and he did provide for us. Unfortunately, he left everything to Draco, so that as soon as he turned of age, he had access to the family money.
“I tried to counsel him, but he assured me that everything was under control. It was only after his arrest that I discovered how much he had been lying to me. The influence with Fudge that he was so proud of, he was paying massively over the odds for.” She sighed and swore under her breath. “I actually thought that Draco had grown to be like his father, and had started to use power properly. Instead, I find that he has managed to deplete a huge fortune in less than four years. And what is worse, he took out loans on our home.”
“Surely you have friends you could turn to.”
Narcissa sighed and sat down. For the first time, Harry managed to see just how worried she was, behind her elegant veneer. “Indeed. I had many offers of help; sadly, the price asked was too high.”
Narcissa looked at him directly. “I had no interest in providing the services requested.”
Harry raised his eyebrows. “Some friends,” he noted. “I take it that does not appeal to you?”
Narcissa opened her mouth to snap at him, but paused. “Contrary to popular belief,” she said softly, “I am not that sort of person. As I said, I loved Lucius. I might not have agreed with a lot of what he did, but he was my husband. I would not dishonour his memory like that, nor would I degrade myself.”
“Have you considered working?”
Narcissa sighed. “I may be a pure-blood,” she said, “but I am not exactly full of marketable experience or skills. The jobs I have been offered were of the ‘secretarial’ variety, which would have had me bent over a desk rather than sitting behind one.”
“You really do choose your friends well, don’t you?”
Narcissa sighed and nodded.
“But you do know everyone who is anyone in the glorious high society circles?”
She blinked and looked surprised. “I do. It is a nest of vipers. They love you when you are rich, and despise you otherwise.”
“Right,” Harry said decisively. “You are going to go home, have a bath, then get some sleep. You are then going to start to writing small biographies of everyone who is important – and include the gossip. Sometime soon, we’ll drop by and talk about what you are going to do in your new job, working for me.
“In the meantime, I’ll be taking on your debts, and will ensure that you have money for food and other essentials.”
Narcissa looked at him blankly. “Excuse me?”
Harry smirked to himself. “Sirius and I will be entering high society shortly and the better informed we are, the easier it will be for us. We will need a social secretary, someone who knows everyone and can advise us on the protocol of high society - you’re it. You won’t have to worry about non-secretarial duties. Sirius is your cousin and I’ve got Gabrielle Delacour, so neither of us has any interest in any services you might render while on your back.”
“Oh,” Narcissa said softly. She shook herself and a determined look appeared in her eyes, replacing the lost one that was there a few moments before. “Tell me,” she said softly, “what is your goal? You don’t strike me as the party type, and you must have said something to get Sirius to agree.”
“We are going to be the life and soul of any party, and then we are going to ensure that the only fashionable thing to do with money is give it away. We’re also going to ensure that high society stop any attacks on us from politicians.”
Narcissa smiled, a cold expression settling on her face. “Revenge is a nice benefit to offer.”
“You’re a Black” he said. “I figured that would appeal to you. Of course, your continued employment depends on how hard you work for me; and your ability to lose your prejudices.”
“My prejudices are not what they once were,” Narcissa said quietly. “I have been paying attention, believe me. A half-blood killed Voldemort and all his supporters at the age of fourteen. The most famous girl in two countries is a part-Veela.” She paused. “My son was extremely jealous of your relationship with her, and I found his hypocrisy nauseating. Miss Granger graduated from Hogwarts with the highest marks in modern history. And you yourself have offered me, the wife and mother and sister of three people who have tried to kill you, an honourable escape from debt. All the pure-bloods tried to use it to get me to act dishonourably. I thank you, Lord Potter, and will get to work immediately.”
“After you’ve had a relaxing bath and slept,” Harry said firmly.
“Grapplegus, can you ensure that she has some money available?”
The goblin reached into a drawer and pulled out a small bag. “A hundred Galleons,” he said calmly.
“Right, food, relax, sleep, and then you can start to work. And I don’t care if you take a few days to pull yourself together, okay?”
Narcissa stood and bowed to him gracefully. She paused, took a deep breath, and then bowed to Grapplegus as well. With her head held high, she walked out.
“That was interesting,” Grapplegus noted. “You are taking a risk.”
“How much is she in debt?”
“Ten thousand Galleons.”
“You’ll transfer the debt to me?”
Harry smirked. “I just bought Malfoy Manor for ten thousand Galleons. That is the bargain of the century. And if she works out, then her advice will be worth more than that. Never underestimate the power of revenge as a motivator. Narcissa is a proud woman, and the fact that people who she thought were friends tried to take advantage of her will ensure that she helps in anyway she can.”
“I mean this as a compliment - you are not like other humans,” Grapplegus said slowly.
Harry smiled. “Probably not.” He took a deep breath and hoped his next sentence wouldn’t sound too bad; he didn’t yet have the confidence to say it with the same self-belief that Gabrielle had. “I am a Prince, and I’m destined to rule.”
Grapplegus stared at him for a long moment. “You are going to have to come to my home soon,” he said slowly, “with Miss Delacour, because I really want to hear the full story.”
“We’d like that.”
“Where is Miss Delacour?”
“With her parents,” Harry said with a sigh. “I’m expecting her back shortly, so I’m flying solo for a bit, and trying to act as she’d expect.”
There was a knock on the door, and a goblin entered. “I’ve got a Miss Patil and two Weasleys asking to see you.”
“Bring them in,” Grapplegus said. “I’m willing to help until your advisors are ready,” he said, “if only because I find you both fascinating and entertaining.”
Harry nodded. “After that, we can schedule meetings properly. Now, can you get one of your cooks to whip up some of your food? Miss Patil will be managing the restaurant.”
“You don’t stand idle, do you?”
Harry smiled and moved to one side.
The door opened again and Fred and George bounded in, followed by a more sedate Padma. Grapplegus barked an order at the goblins.
Harry stood as Padma approached, and she kissed him on the cheek lightly, and then offered her hand to the goblin. Grapplegus shook it solemnly.
Fred moved into the space vacated by Padma and shook Grapplegus’ hand as well. “Fred Weasley,” he introduced himself enthusiastically, “and this is my brother George.”
“Hi,” George said, moving to shake the hand.
“We’re Harry’s first employees,” Fred continued as the dropped into the couch to the side.
“Please, take a seat, Padma,” Harry invited.
She smiled and sat down formally. The twins were dressed in casual robes and were looked around excitedly. Padma was dressed in a very smart robe, and her hair was bound in a tight plait that hung down her back. She pulled out a small notebook and a pen.
Harry smiled at her. “Okay, to finish the introductions. This is Grapplegus, the manager of Gringotts for London. He’s volunteered his time until I have my account managers online. We’ll try to be as quick as we can, as I’ve already taken up enough of his time hiring a new social secretary.”
Grapplegus smiled faintly. “Yesterday we purchased two premises on Harry’s behalf. The first is on Diagon Alley, the building next to us. We’ve agreed to lease Harry one of our abandoned vaults, as we believe it would be the perfect place for experimentation. It has all of the standard charms you would expect.”
“Wow,” Fred exhaled. “That sounds brilliant.”
“The second,” Grapplegus continued, “was a pure-blood family summer house – the Smythe family. They needed the money, and while the location is a little out of the woods, we have arranged for a commercial Floo connection. We should be able to get eight lines in, as well as a Portkey and Apparation spot. The décor does need updating, but I think that the conservatory has a lot of potential.”
Padma noted down a few things and smiled at the goblin. “I’m sure we can sort out the décor. Harry, what’s our budget?”
“A thousand Galleons to start,” Harry replied. “That should be enough to buy all the furniture and material that you will need.”
Padma nodded. “We don’t want anything too over the top, do we? We’re aiming at the middle classes?”
“Correct. We want people to feel comfortable. You’re going to have to try and arrange it so that there is only a counter separating the kitchen from the dining room.”
“Why?” Padma asked, her pen flying over the pad.
“Because it will add a sense of theatre to watch a house-elf order a bunch of humans around and it will give the place a buzz.”
Padma nodded and smiled happily. The doors opened, and a goblin entered, pushing a cart. “Excellent,” Harry proclaimed. “Fred, George, it’s time for a test of courage. Take a bite of this.”
Padma, who was nearest, reached over and took the first bite, her eyes challenging. “Nice,” she said calmly. “I wouldn’t call that a test of courage though.”
Fred and George looked at each other, shrugged, and both took large bites.
For a second, nothing happened at all. Fred turned red, closely followed by George. They both dropped to their knees and threw their heads back, yelling in unison, flames bursting from their mouths a foot into the air.
Harry passed them each a bottle of potion, and they downed it eagerly.
“Blimey,” Fred croaked.
“What he said,” George agreed. “That stuff packs a kick,” he paused and looked at Padma.
“I took a protective potion before I came here,” Padma said smugly. “Harry mentioned he wanted to cook goblin food, so I planned ahead.”
Fred groaned. “And she looks so sweet and innocent too.”
Padma inclined her head. “I am,” she agreed. “But I also remember my hair being turned green when I was in school. I believe we are now even.”
Fred and George looked at each other before they started to laugh. “Bravo,” Fred said, as they both bowed in respect.
“Padma,” Harry said thoughtfully. “Can you write down some of the books you’d recommend on running a business? I want these two clowns to do a bit of homework before they start.”
Fred and George looked at each other and paled. “About that,” Fred said.
“We’ve been thinking,” George continued. “We’re good at inventing. We’re really good at marketing; selling ourselves and our products.”
“What we’re not good with is figures and handling money.” Fred sighed. “If we’d been able to save, we would never have ended up at the sanitation department.”
Harry nodded. “Padma, any suggestions?”
“Do you remember Su Li?”
“Tiny Ravenclaw girl?” Harry asked, holding his hand at knee height.
“She grew up,” Padma said dryly. “But yes. She’s currently helping in her mother’s apothecary. Which is a complete waste of her talents. She’d be good at the business side of things.”
“What’s her personality like?”
“Oriental,” Padma said with a smirk. “Unfailingly polite, gentle, calm, until you push her a little too far, and then she unleashes the little dragon. When that happens, you better run, far and fast.”
“Okay,” Harry nodded. “Can you sound her out? If she’s interested, I’d like to meet her first.”
“If I can borrow the Floo?”
“Be my guest,” Grapplegus invited.
Padma walked over to the fireplace, and Harry turned to the twins.
They looked at each other and shrugged. “If it allows us do spend more time doing what we love, then yes, absolutely,” Fred said.
George reached into his pockets and pulled out a small piece of parchment. He cast a spell on it and it expanded massively. “We worked on this last night,” he explained. “It’s a list of the base products we think we should sell.”
Harry placed it on Grapplegus’ desk and moved around so that he was next to the goblin. They read it together. Harry lifted a quill off the goblin’s desk and added one last product to the list.
“Dragon’s Breath Sweets?” George asked, reading upside down.
“Replicate the effect of the goblin food, without the pain,” Harry said. “Well, maybe a little heat. It looked very cool when the fire came out of your mouths.”
The twins looked at each other before they smiled. “We can do it,” Fred said confidently. “Good idea.”
“Su is coming over now,” Padma announced as she sat back down.
Harry nodded and perched himself on the corner of the desk. “I’d like you to get Dobby involved in the kitchen planning,” he said. “He’s going to be the first famous house-elf, and he’ll love the idea of helping plan the kitchen. The one thing you will have to do is manage him.”
“He’ll attempt to do everything himself. He’ll need to delegate and make sure that everyone can do their jobs. And as confident as he sounds, it will be the first time he has ordered humans around, so he may need some pointers on how to do it.”
Padma noted it down, before the door opened again, and a goblin peered in. “Another human, a Miss Li, to see you.”
“Send her in,” Grapplegus ordered.
The goblin nodded and vanished. Less than thirty seconds later, the petite form of Su Li appeared. She was wearing a white apron over utilitarian robes. She looked at Grapplegus and blinked, before she started to blush.
“My apologies,” she said. “My friend failed to pass on important information. If I had known, I would have taken the time to dress appropriately.”
Grapplegus sighed deeply and looked at Harry. “Are you trying to ram home a point?”
“Me?” Harry asked innocently. “I certainly would never point out that pure-bloods are a miserable example of the human race, all insular and inbred, and that the rest of the Wizarding population is full of open minded people who believe in courtesy and politeness. And I’d never accuse the goblins of pandering to the pure-bloods, since they have the gold, and not looking at what sort of partnerships could be achieved by going beyond them.”
Grapplegus calmly banged his head against his desk several times. “I hate you,” he grumbled. “You’re throwing out centuries of tradition.”
“I know,” Grapplegus interrupted. “I remember.” He looked up at Su Li. “You’ll have to excuse us. Harry’s right, the only humans I’ve met in the past have been pure-bloods – normally I wouldn’t have met him, but business has been challenging recently, and he has a large amount of money. He was supposed to be a good boy and let us invest in the traditional ways, and life would have continued to be good. Instead he has insisted on shaking our world to the foundations.”
“He did that at school, too,” Su Li said calmly. She’d removed her apron and her robes, and was wearing a simple green dress that suited her complexion. “Padma mentioned something about a chance of employment?”
“How well did you do at Hogwarts?”
“Fifth in our year,” she replied. “I got outstanding on everything; I just did fewer subjects than others.”
“Do you know what binomial coefficients are?”
Without hesitation, Su responded, “Yes. If you have a number of potion ingredients, and the number of ingredients per potion, you’d use them to work out how many different potions you could make.”
Fred and George looked at each other blankly.
Harry smiled and nodded. “You’ve studied out of the Wizarding world?”
“I’ve got an MBA from Kent University.” She sighed. “I wanted to come back to the Wizarding world. I missed using magic, but recently I’ve been thinking of going back to the Muggle world. They’ve at least heard of equality there.”
“Rather than vanish, how about you take a job managing these two? They’ve got the production, sales and marketing sewn up, but they wouldn’t recognise an integer if it bit them on their bums.”
Su smiled. “A prank shop?” she asked.
Harry nodded. “Fully funded. They’ll need someone to balance the books, make sure that they sell their products for a profit, keep an eye on costs, and allow them to do what they do best.”
Su bounced in her seat. “You have premises?”
“Right next door.”
“There was one more question I had,” Padma said quietly. “Share options?”
Su was nodding eagerly as well.
Harry thought for a few seconds. He picked up the quill again and made a few notes and a small diagram. So far he owed thirty-four percent of the business with Fred and George, and the total of the restaurant, but that was only the start of some of the things that they had planned. He looked up slowly, facing the two girls. “You can have five percent of the respective businesses,” he said softly, “or half a percent of the parent company.”
“The parent company?” Su asked intently.
“Princess Holdings,” Harry said, making a name up on the spot. “The company that will finance the restaurant and prank shop, and the other ventures we explore.”
“Done,” Padma and Su said instantly in unison.
“Wait,” Fred interrupted. “You took the smaller share?”
“Simple maths,” Su explained. “A small part of a big number will be bigger than a big part of a small number. We’re gambling, of course, in Harry and Gabrielle, but we think it’s a safe bet.”
Padma nodded in agreement. “Exactly. But we’re also betting on ourselves. We believe that we can make a lot of money in these jobs, and we want to use them to prove that we’re the best, so when Harry and Gabrielle move on, they’ll take us with them. This sort of chance doesn’t happen, normally.”
Fred and George looked at each other, before they looked at Harry. “Can we do the same?” George asked seriously.
“Exchange your share of the business for shares in the parent company?” Harry asked to clarify. As they had a third of the pranking business, he was going to give them more of the parent business.
They nodded. “You’re hiring Su to take care of our finances,” George pointed out. “So we’ll take her advice now.”
“We might not understand finance,” Fred continued, “but we’re not stupid. And besides, betting on ourselves? Not a problem.”
Harry smiled faintly. “Done.”
“Woohoo,” Fred cheered
“Su, do you need to give any notice?”
She shook her head.
“Then why don’t you four go and have a look at the properties?” Harry suggested. “Pool your ideas.”
Su smiled brightly at him and nodded.
“Go on, get moving,” Harry ordered. “We’ve taken enough of Grapplegus’ time as it is.”
Fred and George stood and took the girls’ hands, dragging them out eagerly. As the door open, Grapplegus barked a few orders. “They’ll be looked after,” he said to Harry.
Harry moved around the table and dropped down on to the couch.
“I hope so,” Harry agreed.
“I like that you don’t let sentiment get in the way.”
Harry nodded. “I was trying to be fair, but I don’t want to lose control either. I’ve given away five percent of the shares so far, two percent each to Fred and George, and half a percent each to Padma and Su, which leaves me another thirteen to play with.”
“You are keeping eighty for yourselves?”
Harry nodded. “Forty each for Gabrielle and me. I can’t see us ever disagreeing, but if we do, the others will be able to decide.”
“A wise move,” the goblin agreed. “Have you considered allowing institutions to buy in to the shares?”
Harry shook his head. “Not at the moment. I’m going to keep things very close to my chest for now; the others will be able to sell their shares after a one year period. That will be the chance for anyone to buy them.”
“I’ll swap you a free lease on our old vault for first refusal at the shares.”
Harry thought for a second and then nodded. “I’ll write it into the contract. Obviously, they don’t have to sell to you, just offer. It’s up to you to come up with the right price.”
Harry smiled. “In that case, I’ll leave you to your job.”
“I meant what I said about you and your Princess,” Grapplegus said.
“We’ll arrange it as soon as I talk to Gabrielle,” Harry promised as he stood and shook the manager’s hand. After a brief goodbye, he walked out of the bank and into the bright sunlight. Through the windows of the building next to the bank, he could see his friends with a couple of goblins.
He looked at his watch and frowned. He still hadn’t heard from Gabbi, and he was starting to get worried. He didn’t want to appear over-protective – he was more than convinced that she could look after herself – but he wanted to make sure. He smiled. He could always send her a letter, but to do that he needed Hedwig.
With a cheerful stride, he walked through Diagon Alley and exited into the Muggle world. It was an extremely pleasant day, so he walked to the phone box and dialled the number that would connect him to the Ministry of Magic.
“Harry Potter visiting Hermione Weasley,” he said in answer to the question. The box dropped into the earth as a badge popped out for him. He shoved it in his pocket and whistled to himself.
After a minute of descending, the door opened into the large atrium of the Ministry of Magic. He walked up to the guard to get his wand checked. The guard didn’t even look up as Harry handed over his wand, and he was quickly able to get to level two.
He walked confidently through the maze of desks that made up the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and entered an office without knocking. He silently dropped down on to a chair. “Secure place you have here.”
Hermione literally jumped out of her chair, and then clutched at her heart. “Don’t do that!” she demanded.
Harry smirked at her. “Why not?”
“It’s bad for me!”
“As bad as visiting the Quibbler and having Luna flash me?”
“Look, I didn’t know Gabrielle was going to wake you up,” she confessed. “And I figured you’d need a girlfriend sooner or later, and Luna’s a lot of fun, and she’s one of the few people I could guarantee wouldn’t give a Knut about your fame, or your money.”
Harry shook his head. “Are there any more surprises buried in my memory like that?”
Hermione shook her head. “No, that was it on the surprise front. I figured you’d be a teenage boy and have a bit of fun.”
“Okay,” Harry said and dropped the subject. “Nice digs.”
“Thank you. Want to sit on my couch?”
“Is that how you got Ron to marry you?”
Hermione blushed again. “I am a psychologist,” she pointed out. “I meant that I might be able to help you.”
“Right,” Harry drawled. “Actually, you can help me. Where’s Hedwig?”
The smile slowly dropped from Hermione’s face. “I’m sorry, Harry, but she’s no longer with us. She died of old age -- last year.”
Harry felt like he had been punched in the stomach.
Hermione stood and walked around the desk, taking his hand. “We buried her. I’ll take you to her grave.”
He nodded, and they moved to her private Floo, and soon emerged in Hogsmeade. The trip to Hogwarts was conducted in silence. He didn’t know what to say. The idea that his first real friend had died was not one he had ever contemplated, and it showed starkly that the world really had changed while he was unconscious.
Next to Hagrid’s hut was a small cemetery; headstones large and small were scattered around. The newest one bore the simple inscription of his owl’s name.
Harry dropped to his knees in front of it.
“She never left you,” Hermione whispered. “Every day she would go fly for an hour or two, eat, and then sit on her perch and watch you. She loved you, and would have waited until the end of time for you to wake up, if she could.”
Harry felt tears dripping down his face.
“We offered her new homes, anywhere she wanted, but she always ignored us. She was yours, Harry, and she never forgot it.”
“Hey,” Harry whispered softly. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I just wanted to say thanks. You were always there for me when I needed someone. I’ll never forget you.”
He patted the tombstone softly, and then turned. Hermione was still there and he hugged her tightly, crying on her shoulder. She didn’t say anything, she just let him cry.
She smiled at him softly. “I’d say anytime, but I think we both know you’d rather be with Gabrielle.”
He smiled at her. “You’re always going to be my best friend,” he said simply. “Nothing will change that.”
Hermione smiled and reached up to wipe away a tear. “I can’t tell you how much I missed you,” she whispered back.
She took a deep breath. “At least you’ve calmed down a little now.”
Harry smiled faintly. “I need to go and borrow another owl.”
Hermione nodded. “Feel free to drop by anytime you want to talk.” She looked at her watch. “I’ve got to get back anyway. I’ve got a three o’clock appointment with a ferret.”
“You know I will,” she smirked.
“You might want to know that I’ve hired Narcissa, and that the Malfoy family is broke. I technically own Malfoy Manor, although I’m letting Narcissa live there for now.”
Hermione’s smirk turned positively evil.
“He used far too much money buying his influence.” He paused. “And he fancies Gabbi.”
“Hypocrite,” Hermione said. She took a deep breath. “I need to absorb this. I have to act like a professional.” She kissed Harry on the cheek and walked off.
Harry went in a different direction, heading toward the school Owlery. “Anyone fancy taking a letter for me?” he asked the assembled owls.
There was a series of squawks, before a flock of owls headed toward him at top speed. A grey and black one arrived first, and turned on a six-pence to block the others.
“I’ll guess you’ll do,” Harry said with a laugh, and walked over to the table. He scribbled a quick note. “Take this to Gabrielle Delacour.”
The owl nodded and extended a leg for Harry to attach the message. With a hoot, the owl took off and flew out the window.
Harry walked back down into Hogwarts. Hermione had raised a good point; he had calmed down today, and he didn’t like it. Being so serious and sorting out the business plans didn’t really feel like fun. It was more like a duty he had to perform. He smiled faintly. He knew exactly how Gabrielle would have put it, ‘a Prince must do his duty before he can have fun.’
With a charm he didn’t know he knew, he cast a spell to make others ignore him, and walked toward the Great Hall. It was close to lunchtime, and students were scurrying around, mostly heading toward the Great Hall as well.
It was time to pull off a prank, and he needed an accomplice. He just didn’t know who or what.
To the left, a young girl tripped and her bag went flying, spilling the contents. Rather than help, some of the other students laughed at her and walked off.
The look on the face of the girl ripped straight through Harry. The long brown hair that framed an oval face and blue eyes with an expression of sadness and longing was very familiar. She wore a pair of glasses, and had an air of forced detachment around her. The resemblance to Hermione – in expression, if not looks – was unmistakable.
“Here,” he said, cancelling the spell and helping her. All the other students had already left her.
“Thank you,” she said, before she looked up and gasped. “You’re Harry Potter!”
“Yeah, but I’m taking something for that.”
The girl blushed brightly and looked down. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I state the obvious a lot.”
Harry finished gathering her books and opened the door to a classroom.
She looked at him and then walked in.
“You’re a first-year?” he asked as he sat on a table.
She nodded nervously. “I’m Natalie Jones,” she started, “I’m an only child and my Mum worked with Professor Dumbledore to help fight Voldemort. I came to Hogwarts hoping to make friends but I can’t seem to do it. They call me a brainbox. Just because I want to beat Hermione Granger’s Hogwarts scores in my exams and study all the time. That’s why I’m in Ravenclaw.”
Harry blinked. He hadn’t heard that sort of stream of consciousness in years – well days, at least, depending on how you looked at it. He grinned at her. “What do you think about pranks?”
She looked horrified. “I would never be involved in a prank,” she gasped. “I’m a good girl.” Suddenly the expression faded, to be replaced by an impish one. “How was that?”
She grinned. “It always gets me out of trouble with Dad,” she chatted. “It’s much better to be sweet and innocent, and then no one suspects you. Are we going to be friends?”
Harry couldn’t help laughing. “You know something, Natalie, I think we are.”
Natalie cheered and bounced on feet. “Will I get to meet Miss Delacour?” she asked shyly.
“I certainly hope so,” Harry replied. “She likes pranks just as much as I do.”
Natalie bounced again. “I knew things would turn up for me when you woke up. Without you, Mum might not even be here. I’ve done all sorts of studying about you, and it says in Hogwarts: A History, that your father was one of the Marauders.”
“It does?” Harry asked, surprised.
“Well, not precisely,” she admitted. “But you can work it out. So many pranks that stopped just after they all graduated? That pointed to the year, and only the Head Boy would have had the access needed. From there, it was simple!”
“Right,” Harry agreed. “So, the prank. I think that you no longer sing the school song?”
She shook her head. “That stopped the year after you fell asleep.”
“Brilliant. All I want you to do is ask Professor Dumbledore – if he’s back – why you stopped.”
“I know you know,” Harry interrupted. “Leave the rest to me.”
Natalie took a deep breath and hung her head. “I’m sorry.”
“Nat,” Harry said gently. “We’re friends now, you don’t have to apologise.”
“You’re only eleven years old; you’ll grow out of it.”
“On my honour.”
“As a Prince?” she asked.
He looked at her in surprise.
“Gabrielle’s the Princess, right?”
Natalie nodded, “Even though she’s not really a Princess.”
Harry didn’t answer immediately, as he tried to work out how to answer the implied question. “What is a Princess?” he eventually asked.
Natalie frowned and thought about it for a few seconds. She absently started to fold her fingers as she mentally ticked off points. Then her eyes widened as she came to a realisation. “Apart from the blood line, she is a Princess!”
Harry nodded. “We’re not going to rule by blood,” he explained, “but through what we can do.”
Natalie thought again. “That’s even better,” she decided. She smiled brightly at Harry, and he could already see the air of melancholy fade from around her. “Time for the prank. I’ll wait here for a few moments.”
Harry lightly ruffled her hair.
She grinned at him, before adopting a serious expression.
Harry walked out quickly and took his seat near Zach at the Gryffindor table. Professor Dumbledore was in his place at the head of the table, and he shot Harry a glare that Harry fended off playfully. The food hadn’t arrived yet, and everyone was talking cheerfully. He held his wand under the table, and cast a few spells as silently as he could.
Natalie walked in and placed her bag at the Ravenclaw table, before she nervously approached the Professors’ Table.
“Natalie?” Filius asked.
Natalie looked down shyly. “I wanted to ask Professor Dumbledore a question.”
“Ask away,” Albus said cheerfully.
“I was reading Hogwarts: A History,” she said, her voice was still soft, but everyone had quietened down to try and listen to her. “And I wanted to know why we don’t sing the school song anymore? It looked fun.”
“What!” Harry demanded loudly. “You’ve stopped singing the song, why?”
Dumbledore looked embarrassed. “Well,” he started, but then stopped. He sighed. “Under-Secretary Umbridge felt it was an over-the-top display of school spirit and demanded that we stop.”
“And you let her?”
Albus looked guilty. “I thought,” he started, and then trailed off.
Harry rolled his eyes. “Right. Well, I’ll deal with it.”
“Thank you.” Albus turned back to Natalie. “Take twenty points for your bravery,” he said gently. “And you raise a very good point. The school song has not been heard in these halls for over eight years. Would you like to lead us off?” He waved his hands, and above his head, a large scroll dropped from the ceiling. “Just sing the words, any tune you like.”
“Professor?” Natalie asked, and Harry realised that she was going to be brilliant at pranks.
“Just sing what you see,” Albus sad gently. “Any tune you like.”
Natalie took a deep breath, and then in a pure, clear alto, started to sing.
A wizard's staff has a knob on the end
It never will buckle, it never will bend
He cherishes it, and he calls it his friend,
and he frequently takes it in hand.
As one, every professor froze and then turned slowly to look up at the banner. The rest of the students immediately joined in. All of them were aware that these were not the official words of the Hogwarts school song.
A wizard's staff is the source of his power.
He checks up on it every hour on the hour
And he's never surprised when it turns to a flower --
The fairest throughout all the land.
Every professor’s head slowly turned back to stare directly at Harry, who shot them as innocent a look as possible.
Remus started to laugh, before he took a breath and joined in.
The staff of a wizard with honour is crowned.
Without it a wizard will rarely be found.
'Tis big and it's round and weighs three to the pound
And without it he's truly unmanned.
Albus and Minerva both bent over and banged their heads against the table, as the students roared the final parts with gusto.
The staff of a wizard can do mighty deeds.
It protects him from harm and attends to his needs,
Provides him with banquets upon which he feeds
And potions on which he gets canned.
Whenever a wizard is lonely or sad,
Or feeling dejected, or puzzled, or mad,
He turns to his staff, and things don't seem so bad --
By it he is never trepanned.
There was a loud cheer as they finished, followed by a lot of clapping and yelling.
Natalie stood alone, and waited for the noise to die down. “I didn’t know that the school song had changed,” she said innocently.
“I’m afraid it hasn’t,” Albus responded. “Someone’s played a prank.”
“A prank!” Natalie gasped. “But there hasn’t been one of them in Hogwarts for years!”
“Eight years,” Dumbledore said sourly, looking at Harry.
“I don’t know why he’s looking at me,” Harry said. “I didn’t do it.”
“Why don’t we discuss that in my office,” Albus said. “Now, I think.”
“You better be providing some sandwiches,” Harry said. “I’ve not eaten since breakfast.”
Dumbledore groaned. “Get,” he ordered.
Harry smirked and walked out. “Dobby,” he called on the way. The elf appeared next to him. “Can you arrange for lunch for two in Unca Albus’ office?”
“Dobby is being delighted,” he agreed, and popped out. They walked toward the office in silence, the Gargoyle moving out the way as Albus approached. In the office, Harry sat on the couch, as Albus moved behind his desk. With a wave of his hand, the door to the office shut and Albus started to laugh.
“Did you have to pick that song?”
Dumbledore sniggered, “I’ll keep that memory for a very long time. Now, for the official part of this. You can’t use an innocent first year like that, it’s not fair.”
Harry grinned. “Innocent?”
Albus looked at him in horror. “Sweet Merlin -- she was in on it?”
“Yup. And you know, I just had a crazy idea.”
“Should I hide?”
“Comedian,” Harry grumbled. “I’ve already got one person whom no one will ever suspect. How would you feel about being the other?”
Dumbledore blinked in surprise. “You’re asking me to help prank my own school?”
“No one will ever suspect you and what better way to get the feeling of fun back in Hogwarts? I’m not planning on terrorising anyone, or picking on anyone, just a series of harmless pranks like today’s.” He paused and dangled the biggest carrot he could, “And after we’ve got into the swing of things, we’ll stop pranking Hogwarts and start on the Ministry.”
Albus groaned. “You are telling me that you seriously want to start a prank war with the Ministry? You are a cruel and evil man.”
“You’re in then?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Albus said with deep sigh. “I just hope that Hestia never finds out. You do know that you’re corrupting me?”
“I try,” Harry smirked. “So, why did you allow this Umbridge character to stop the school song?”
“Well, she did play the Ministerial card quite well, and I had to be careful to make sure she couldn’t take control of you.”
“And,” he continued, “I thought it would be something else that would inspire you to take control of the Ministry,” Albus finished guiltily.
“There we go,” Harry said cheerfully. “Confession is good for the soul. How was last night?”
“Enlightening,” Albus grunted. “Unca Albus?” he asked, obviously changing the subject.
“Yeah,” Harry said. “I was talking to Zach, and he said it was easier on the rest of the students if I wasn’t a normal student. Gabrielle and I are going to be day students anyway – too much going on.”
“Celebrities don’t use the bathroom.”
Harry blinked. “They don’t?”
Albus chuckled under his breath. “It’s the same thing in the Muggle world, I understand.” He paused and looked at the door. “This is a surprise, an old friend of yours, I believe.”
The door opened and the tall form of Cedric Diggory walked in. “Harry!” he said delightedly. “Professor McGonagall said I’d find you here.”
“It’s good to see you too, Cedric,” Harry said.
“Before anything else, I have to say thanks. You saved my life that day. I knew I was going to die before you pushed me out of the way.”
“Oh, that was nothing,” Harry said airily, dismissing the praise. “Anyone would have done the same.”
“No, they wouldn’t.” Cedric disagreed. “And they certainly wouldn’t have been able to defeat Voldemort afterward. I did try to say thanks earlier, but Hermione was very protective.”
“I owe her a lot,” Harry agreed.
“Anyway,” Cedric said. “I wondered if you had thought about Quidditch.”
“Of course,” Harry agreed. “I’m looking forward to seeing if I can play Chaser.”
Dumbledore looked up and waved his wand subtly, his movements almost imperceptible.
Cedric snorted. “That wasn’t what I meant.” Before he could say any more, the door opened again and Cho Chang burst in.
“Stop right there, Diggory,” she said firmly.
Harry looked at Albus, who was smiling. The headmaster silently cast the same charm Harry had used earlier. Harry smiled and did the same, quite willing to watch the show unfold between Diggory and Chang, who promptly forgot anyone else was there.
“What are you doing here, Chang?”
“If you think the Harpies are going to let you cut in ahead of us, you’ve got another thing coming. One of our fans saw you high-tailing it up here and contacted us.”
“I don’t see why you’d be interested. Potter’s got the wrong plumbing to play with the Harpies.”
“After dating you, is it any surprise I changed teams?” Cho demanded. “Besides, we had a quick chat, and we agreed that we wouldn’t even ask for a separate changing room if he joined. It might be nice to have a real man around again. And we can offer him some fringe benefits he won’t get anywhere else!”
“Riiiight,” Cedric drawled. “He’s dating Delacour, there’s nothing you tarts can offer him.”
“We’re prepared to offer her a contract as well. We have the fan base to make them both a very attractive offer.”
“You tarts just need the skill. The only way you manage to get sell out crowds is because of the short skirts you wear! It’s pathetic, you just flash a bit of thigh and wizards drown in their own drool!”
“At least we get a full house every game, Mr Half-Full-Stadium.”
The door opened, and a scowling Marcus Flint entered. “Great,” he said after looking around. “A pretty-boy and a dyke, all in one place.”
“Hey!” Cedric protested.
“Great comeback,” Cho snorted. “Drop dead, Flint.”
“That was the problem with you two,” Flint sneered. “She always had more balls than you did.”
“Now see here,” Cedric protested.
“Will you please shut up!” Cho said to Cedric. “What the hell do you want, Flint?”
“Same as you two. Potter and the bird.”
“Potter doesn’t like you,” Cedric pointed out. “And neither do I.”
“Oh, the pretty-boy hates me,” Flint smirked. “What am I to do? That was years ago. I’ll flatter him into accepting, get him on the team, and then after I break him and the Veela-whore up, maybe see if I can show her what a real man can do.”
Harry was out of his seat before he could stop himself, cancelling the notice-me-not spell half a second before his fist exploded onto Flint’s jaw. The tall Quidditch player toppled backward, unconscious before he hit the floor.
“That’s a 'no' to the job offer,” Harry spat at him. He looked at Fawkes. “Would you do me a favour and wake him?”
Fawkes looked quizzically at Harry.
“The lake,” Harry suggested.
The phoenix trilled in laughter and flew down, grabbing Flint by his hair, and pulled him out the window. A few seconds later, the faint sound of a loud splash accompanied a smirking phoenix’s return to his perch.
“Right,” Harry continued. “Thank you both for your interest, but I’m not interested in signing anything until I’ve at least seen if I’m going to be any good.”
“That’s hardly in doubt,” Cho said softly.
“It is to the person who counts, namely me!”
“Harry,” Cedric started. Cho elbowed him in the stomach firmly and rolled her eyes.
“I meant what I said,” she continued. “The Harpies wouldn’t normally go for a male player, but we need two Chasers, and we know we wouldn’t get Delacour without you. We have a lot of fun, and we’re all really close. Would you keep us in mind when you’ve proven to yourself that you’re good enough?”
“And us,” Cedric continued. “The Wanderers are a very good team, and we could be great. We know that money isn’t important for you both, although obviously we’ll match any offer you get from another team.”
Harry nodded again.
Cho smiled at him, and then leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. “It is good to see you awake,” she said. She leaned in and whispered, “I wish I had said yes that night.”
Harry smiled, as she continued, “But it’s a good thing I didn’t, I’d hate losing you to Gabrielle.”
“It’s good to see you both. I’d say the same about Flint, but I’d be lying. He was the worst person they could have sent.”
“Believe it or not,” Cho sighed, “he’s the most eloquent of the lot of them. Hooligans. Come on, Cedric, we’ve said what we needed to.”
Cedric shook Harry’s hand, “Can we go out for a drink?”
“Probably,” Harry agreed. The two walked out the door, before Cho poked her head back around. “If it helps, I’ve beaten Cedric to the Snitch the last eight times we’ve played!”
“Chang!” Cedric shouted.
Cho winked and vanished.
Harry sunk back down onto the couch. “That was fun.”
“I thought so,” Dumbledore agreed. “Capital entertainment.”
Harry shot him a dour look. “Do you think they forgot that Ron plays for the Cannons?”
Dumbledore smiled. “Probably not. As much as I like the Cannons, their chances, even with you two, wouldn’t be high. Well, not unless you fancy helping rebuild a team from scratch.”
Harry groaned. “That good?”
Dumbledore nodded. “Ron is a good Keeper, and should really be on another team – but his loyalty is without question.”
“I’ll let Gabbi decide,” he eventually said. He looked up as the same owl he had sent to Gabrielle flew in through the window. The owl had an embarrassed look on its face as it held out its leg. “You couldn’t find her?”
The owl hooted and took off immediately, not even waiting for a treat.
“Fawkes, can you find her?” Harry asked, starting to get a little worried.
Fawkes rolled his eyes.
“Here,” Harry said, scribbling a new note.
Fawkes took it and vanished in a puff of smoke.
“You’ve not heard from Miss Delacour?”
“No,” Harry replied.
Dobby appeared with a pop. “Dobby was being waiting for thems to be going,” he explained. “Harry Potter sir is to be eating now.”
“Yes, Dobby,” Harry said. “You should be contacted shortly by the Manager of the restaurant – Padma Patil – she will want your input into the kitchen set up that you are going to be running.”
Dobby bounced eagerly. “Dobby has ideas! Dobby will be writing ideas down so he isn’t forgetting them.” The elf vanished with a pop.
“Was it me or was that pop somehow exuberant?” Albus asked in surprise.
“It wasn’t you,” Harry confirmed as he took one of the two plates.
“Your plans are going ahead then?”
“Absolutely, Grapplegus has been a big help. I should be getting two new account managers next week, and a third for the Black fortune.”
“What exactly are you planning?”
The next few hours passed swiftly, as Harry outlined some of the things he had planned, and listened carefully as Albus offered advice freely.
Fawkes appeared back in a puff of smoke. He landed on Albus’ desk.
Dumbledore frowned. “Fawkes says that Gabrielle’s been kidnapped!”
“What?!” Harry looked at Fawkes. “Where is she?”
The phoenix looked embarrassed as he shook his head.
“But you can get to her?” Harry demanded.
“Phoenixes can locate people and transfer straight there,” Albus explained, “but they can’t actually fly directly. Fawkes says that he spent some time where Gabrielle is being held, before returning. She is currently unharmed. I would suspect that the best place to start would be the family home. It’s in Sainte-Maxime on the South coast of France.”
“Couldn’t he just transfer me there?”
Albus looked at Fawkes, who looked embarrassed and shook his head.
“I believe that there are wards in the way,” Albus explained. “Fawkes can slip past them, but you would be stopped.”
Harry nodded. “Thanks for what you’ve found out,” he said to the Phoenix. “I’ll find her.”
“Miss Delacour’s broom is in her room.”
“Harry,” Albus called as Harry stood to leave. “If it gets serious, call for help. We’ll all be ready.”
“I will,” Harry promised and hurried out of the office.
“Harry,” Natalie called. She’d been waiting around the corridor.
“Gabbi’s been kidnapped,” Harry told her as he walked at a fast pace toward the Gryffindor Common Room.
Natalie gasped. “By whom?” she asked as she trotted to keep up with him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “If she’s been hurt, I’m going make sure that everyone knows what happens when they touch my Princess.”
“Good,” Natalie said fiercely.
“Golden Goose,” Harry said to the portrait. “Coming?”
“It’s the Gryffindor Common Room,” Natalie pointed out. “I’m a Ravenclaw.”
“You’re my friend; that takes precedence.”
“Yes, Harry,” Natalie said happily.
“Err, Harry?” Zach asked.
“Natalie, do me a favour and fetch Gabbi’s broom, it should be on or near her bed,” he said, pointing to the seventh year girls’ dorm room.
Natalie nodded and flew up the stairs.
“Gabbi’s been kidnapped,” Harry explained. “I’m going to rescue her.”
“Can we come?”
Harry blinked. “Sorry?”
“You’re Harry Potter, going on an adventure,” Zach said excitedly. “Most of us have waited all our lives for this sort of chance! We can help.”
Harry smiled faintly as Natalie ran back, the Lightning Bolt in her hands. She gave it to Harry. “Can I help?” she asked.
“Not this time, Nat, and this goes for the rest of you as well.” He took a deep breath, “I have a hunch – a feeling that I’ve got to do this one alone.
“I know that with Remus as a Professor, you’ve all had a better Defence classes than I did, but still, I’ll have to say no this time.” He paused. “But, as I am Harry Potter, this sort of thing seems to happen all the time, and if you’re serious about helping, then next time, when I know you better, I promise those that want to can come along.
“But for now, my Princess is being held in France, and I’m going to get her back, even if I have to tear the country apart piece by piece.” He pulled out his wand and cast a spell at the window, hopped onto the ledge and jumped out. As he left, he could hear the Gryffindors start to cheer.
He plummeted toward the ground, and had a split second to admire his own stupidity as he had just jumped out of a tower with a broom he didn’t know how to control!
He wrestled it under control and managed to pull it out of the steep drive at the last second, his feet brushing the grass, before he pulled up and headed toward Hogsmeade.
The remains of the cheer echoed through the hall, and Minerva McGonagall groaned. That sort of noise always meant some sort of trouble.
She nodded to the Fat Lady and entered the Common Room. All her students were crowded around a window in the corner, and were talking excitedly, most looked slightly out of breath – which considering the volume of the cheer that had attracted her attention, was hardly surprising.
“What is going on here?” She demanded.
“Professor,” Zach gasped. “Harry’s invading France!”
Minerva groaned again. In front of her the students separated, so that she could see her Quidditch Captain. What she didn’t expect was the small Ravenclaw beside him. “Miss Jones?” she asked.
“Professor,” Natalie said softly.
“What are you doing here?”
“She came in with Harry,” Zach said. “And that’s good enough for us.”
Natalie blushed as the students cheered again.
“Natalie?” Minerva tried again.
Natalie looked up, her eyes huge and innocent. “Harry said that he owed me an apology for using me for the prank earlier,” she said. “We’re friends now.”
Minerva nodded. “Of course. Now, why is Harry invading France?”
“Because they’ve kidnapped his Princess,” Natalie explained. “And he’s going to get her back!”
“Oh dear,” Minerva gasped.
“Don’t be worried,” Natalie said. “Harry’s our Prince, he’ll rescue her, and they’ll live happily ever after.”
“Not you, too,” Minerva mumbled.
“Nothing, Natalie,” she replied. “You can stay in the Common Room for a bit, but in future, you should only come in here with Harry.”
“Or with Gabrielle?”
Minerva nodded. “I’m going to see the Headmaster. Do try to keep the noise down.”
She turned and hid a smile as she heard Zach say, “Come on, Natalie, I’ll show you around.” Zach might talk too much, and not study enough, but he was a Gryffindor to the bone, and if he had been born a few years earlier, he would have definitely been with Harry, Ron and Hermione through their adventures.
She knocked on the door to Albus’ office more out of politeness than because she had to – she knew she was welcome, but some things were deeply ingrained.
“Come in, Minerva,” Albus called cheerily.
“Gabrielle’s been kidnapped,” she said as she entered.
“I know,” Albus agreed. “Fawkes doesn’t think it’s anything Harry can’t handle.”
Minerva blinked. “Then exactly why is he taking a broom, and not a Portkey or even the Floo or having Fawkes take him there?”
Albus looked guilty.
“Albus,” Minerva said sternly, placing her hands on her hips. “If this is one of your schemes…”
“It is NOT a scheme. It’s payback!”
“Last night he petrified me and handed me over to Doris. By the time the spell wore off, the only thing I could do was beg forgiveness – several decades’ worth. I’ve never had so many short-comings pointed out to me in so little time.” Albus smiled suddenly, his eyes twinkling. “Besides, he is concerned about his performance on a broom, and an international trip will be the best way for him to get used to it.”
Minerva’s lips twitched.
“I also told him that if he does need help, that we’d all be there for him.”
“Good,” Minerva said with a slight smile. “In which case, do you want to come to the meeting tonight?”
“Very informal, but those of us who were looking after Harry get together for a drink or two.”
“Et tu, Minerva?”
“I’d be delighted,” Albus said. “May I invite Doris?”
Minerva smiled broadly. “Yes. Oh, for your information, I’ve allowed Natalie Jones to enter the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry apologised to her for using her in today’s prank, and they’re now friends.”
It would take Minerva a long time to work out just why Albus started to roar with laughter at that point.
Harry's prank song, was written by Heather Wood in 1992 and it was based on a song sung by Gytha (Nanny) Ogg, a character from the one of the Gods of fiction, Terry Pratchett in his Discworld series.
One more chapter to go...
I'm sure I intended to write something pithy here, but it's late, and I need sleep.
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